Tuesday, September 27, 2005


I was going to write a blog entry from Tunisia. Having found an Internet cafe I paid my 2 dinar (about £1.00) tipped the attendant in advance to encourage him not to clock watch too closely, kicked the sand from my sandals (de riguer footwear in these parts), cracked my knuckles and hovered my fingers over the keyboard like a concert pianist. It was then that I noticed the 'qwerty' keyboard is probably a western construct as I was instead presented with something altogether different: وقد تم توجيه الاتهامات في هذه القضية, isn't exactly what I saw though at least provides a rough illustration of what my eyes met.

I struggled my way through a couple of emails typing like a two fingered chimp, conceding all thoughts of punctuation - I never did find the dash; nor the semi-colon, and the screamer must have gone walkabout around the endless Tunisian wasteland on the fringes of the Sahara! But I couldn't stretch to a blog post. Very quickly my fizzing eyes, bloodied fingers and bruised forehead (think of that little video clip of a pathological computer-phobe that did the rounds recently) refused to go on any further.

I reminded myself I was on holiday and as such did not need this kind of stress, this kind of pain, so I booked a bus trip to the Sahara desert, the fringes of which can be found near the bottom of the country, dangerously close to the border with Algeria. In truth the roads to the country's bottom are really Tunisia's ass end: Only spiky gorse and sickly olive trees which seem to be straining for life can be seen mile after mile through the desolate wilderness. Odd villages with their complement of poverty stricken, ragged inhabitants and rickety buildings offer the only relief - if it could be considered such - from the barren landscape. I found myself wondering what sights of incongruity would be made by any outer space alien reckless enough to have chosen this ramshackle moonscape to undertake any examination of human study. Wondering what sense would it make of these contrasts: the oblongs of rolling opulence with cargos of plumply indulged faces gazing indifferently though glass panels whilst passing through endless raggle-taggle rubbish tips of wretchedness and desperation.

But I lowered my Oakley sunglasses into position and tweaked the curtain to shade the sun - feeling closer to cracked-lipped John Mills, squinting earnestly at the boiling sun from his sandy hell in 'Ice Cold in Alex' and hoped that the bus wouldn't break down in the middle of this furnace with no (treacherous) Anthony Quayle on board to save the day. I reminded myself I was a tourist on my way to savour an authentic Saharan experience: a camel ride.

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